Review of God the Peacemaker (IVP, 2009)

An Australian Amyraldian (p151), Graham Cole tells us that God may have more than one design for the cross. Using the formula of Lombard (and Dordt), he explains how the death of Christ is sufficient for those for whom it will not be enough to save. At least he is honest enough not to claim to believe in particular atonement.

At two places in the book (p178 196), he rejoices in the idea that he “has been died for”, but he rejects any kind of “logical completeness” which would point out that his false gospel says that even those who perish have been died for. Cole makes the imputation of Christ’s death and resurrection a second blessing, subsequent to “union with Christ”. (p158) He assumes what almost everybody assumes, that a “real” union (with the Spirit) precedes any legal imputation of the benefits of Christ’s death.

To this end, Cole twice (p168, 158) uses the same Calvin quotation from 3:11:10 which is pushed on us by Torrance and Gaffin. “As long as Christ is outside us…” The priority of the Spirit in applying election and the atonement functions as an unexamined  given. Nobody, except Bruce Mccormack in What’s at Stake in Justification (p104-116), seems to have examined the possibility that Christ is outside us as long as we are outside Christ forensically, ie, that imputation is the union which results in Christ’s gift of the Spirit, because Christ’s death has purchased that Spirit’s work in the elect.

My concern is not simply that those who talk about “union with Christ” define it, instead of assuming that such a union is not legal but the “real” cause for the legal. My concern is a false gospel which, with Hans Boersma, regards “high Calvinism’s limited atonement theory as locating violence in the very heart of God.” (p251). I reject the double-talk of Cole, who quotes Bernard of Clairvaux: “remove freewill and there will be nothing to save; remove grace, and there will be nothing to save with.” (p217). If the death of the Lord Jesus paid all the penalty for those who perish, then that death is not a sufficient substitution and we are in the miserable position of finding some other way to remove the guilt and penalty of sin.

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